Comments and opinions have flooded South African and international media in the wake of the SuperSport walkout incident on Saturday 19 May. With little information besides what was broadcast live, fans and politicians alike immediately took sides – either in support for or in opposition to Ashwin Willemse’s on-air actions. But Grahamstown rugby administrators and players have avoided any bandwagon.
After Willemse walked off of a live post-match analysis and discussion, for as yet unknown reasons, the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Tokozile Xasa, called for the suspension of Naas Botha and Nick Mallett. The Minister said: “This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represent[s]better must come to an end. If it was not for a barbaric nonsensical apartheid system that privileged them we [would]not have implemented [a]quota system to normalise an otherwise abnormal system.”
Phumzile Adam, a non-racial sport activist and former player who is now a rugby coach and administrator as part of the South-Eastern Rugby Union (Sedru), opted to wait for the full details of the incident before commenting.
“I need to hear the whole story [before I]give my views,” said Adam. “In our comments we need to be objective and unbiased.”
Adam did, however, echo the Minister’s request for all parties to be suspended on the basis that there was an investigation under way.
“Yes, it is right to suspend them with pay because they are directly implicated,” Adam said. “It might interfere with the investigation if they are [on air].”
Gareth Burger, former captain of the Grahamstown Brumbies, also wanted to hear all the facts before making his judgement.
Burger did, however, say, “I don’t think [Mallett, Botha and Willemse appearing on air] would be a problem, because they haven’t been found guilty of anything.” Burger questioned the Minister’s statement.
“Without information, how can you suggest that people must be suspended?”
After the first day of investigations on Monday 21 May, it was confirmed by Multichoice SA CEO, Calvo Mawela, that the reasons behind the incident were not racially based; however the actual reasons for Willemse’s walkout were not revealed.
Despite the revelation that the walk-off was not sparked by racist behaviour, on Wednesday 23 May, Xasa stood by her earlier statement.
The internal investigation continues at SuperSport; however all three former Springboks are expected to appear on air this weekend.
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